This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Agony Booth review: Double Features

My latest Agony Booth article goes into nice ideas for double features.
Double features are almost as old as cinema itself. Before TV came around, a movie would be preceded by an animated short, a live-action short, a newsreel, and then the main feature. During the Great Depression, cinemas began to give customers two movies for the price of one in order to attract more ticket buyers. These presentations initially began with a low-budget film (the B-movie) before an interlude and then the main feature. This allowed studios that specialized in making B-movies, such as Republic, to become successful.

The revenue this generated soon led to major studios making their own B-movie features. This practice continues to thrive today, only nowadays these movies usually go straight to video (or streaming). Thanks to the advent of home video and later the internet, people can now have double features of all kinds in their own homes. Here now (in no particular order) are 10 great double features you can have at home and why I find them ideal.

Star Wars (1977)/Halloween (1978): These two films respectively rewrote the books on science fiction and horror (for good and bad, according to some) as it didn’t take long for imitators of both movies to flood cinemas in the wake of their successes. As it turns out, the villains in these movies (Darth Vader and Michael Myers) also wear what would become awesome Halloween costumes. Even the musical scores for both movies have become iconic, and rightly so. In addition, the first sequels for each film (The Empire Strikes Back and Halloween II) can make an ideal double feature since they each brought family connections into the narrative, influencing the directions of their respective franchises (again, for good and bad, according to some fans).

Hang ‘Em High (1968)/Night of the Living Dead (1968): By the end of the 1960s, Italian studios were basically churning out westerns and zombie pictures like they were pizzas. While neither of these films were Italian productions, both capitalized on that craze. Hang ‘Em High, Clint Eastwood’s first American-made western after the three he did with Sergio Leone made him a film star, involves a rancher (Eastwood) who survives a lynching and becomes deputized before hunting down the men who tried to kill him. Night of the Living Dead, an inexpensive production made in Pittsburgh, centers on a group of people who become trapped in a deserted house as reanimated corpses begin engulfing the countryside. Both movies have a gritty, harsh tone, and the fact that both premiered just after the shocking murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy may have made both films cathartic, if you will, for viewers.

Jaws (1975)/Taxi Driver (1976): I actually plan to go into more detail about these two movies at a later time. Needless to say, however, Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s classic film of a shark terrorizing an island community, set the bar when it came to blockbusters, while Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s classic picture about a loner (Robert De Niro) who ends up committing terrifying acts, did the same for independent films. One could also say they ended up coloring the public’s perceptions of their respective directors.

High Noon (1952)/Rio Bravo (1959): Two classic westerns released during the genre’s heyday. The former, in which Gary Cooper ends up facing bad guys alone when nobody is willing to assist him, was viewed as a critique of McCarthyism for the manner in which Cooper does the honorable thing. The latter, in which John Wayne fights bad guys with loyal men at his side, was viewed as a counterpoint to that argument, as Wayne’s character doesn’t spend much of the movie asking for assistance. Wayne even called High Noon “un-American”, which is what led to him and director Howard Hawks making Bravo. Regardless of political views, today both movies are rightfully embraced as masterpieces.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)/Labyrinth (1986): Both of these films involve young people who must enter a world they know from a book in order to save lives. NeverEnding Story centers on a lonely boy (Barret Oliver) reading a fantasy book, and as he reaches the end, he realizes that he’s the only one who can save a not-so-fictional land from destruction. Labyrinth stars then-unknown Jennifer Connelly as a fantasy-loving teenager who just wants to live in her own fantasy world and regrets her wish that her infant brother be taken away by the Goblin King (the late, great David Bowie), a character from the play she’s reading. She must then enter that fantasy world to save her brother, dealing with the Goblin King and his minions (created by the late, great Jim Henson). One could also say that both movies make a great argument for why reading is good.

Ghostbusters (1984)/Beetlejuice (1988): Two comedy classics involving ghosts. Ghostbusters centers on four men (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and the late Harold Ramis) who manage to make a lucrative business out of capturing ghosts. In lesser hands, Beetlejuice could have been just a Ghostbusters knock-off, but Tim Burton stirs things up with his film by making ghosts the main characters. In that film, a couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) have recently died and soon enlist the aid of the title character (Michael Keaton) to rid their home of its new owners, an act that they come to regret, as he has a reputation for wrecking havoc among both the living and the dead. Add the fact that both of these movies are hilarious and you have a great double feature.

The Terminator (1984)/Back to the Future (1985): Two time travel stories released in consecutive years. The first, which involves a murderous cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back through time to change history by killing a woman (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to the man who will save humanity, was a nerve-jolting thriller, while the second, in which a teenager (Michael J. Fox) accidentally goes back in time thanks to a DeLorean his scientist friend (Christopher Lloyd) has modified, was a comedy. Both films also end up giving nice messages about the importance of believing in yourself and creating your own destiny.

Escape from New York (1981)/Blade Runner (1982): Both of these are science fiction films which show a near future with a dark, apocalyptic outlook that continues to influence the science fiction genre to this day. Escape from New York, which takes place in 1997, involves a criminal (Kurt Russell) being drafted into rescuing the President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) by going into the title city (which is now a maximum security prison), where Air Force One crashed and the president was kidnapped by the dangerous criminals who now inhabit the city. Blade Runner involves a police detective (Harrison Ford) who must go through 2019 Los Angeles to terminate dangerous androids (Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy, and Brion James) who have arrived on Earth (where androids are banned) after violently escaping from an outer space colony (three more years to go as of this writing—let’s see if those colonies come about by then). Another interesting contrast is that Escape contains criticism of police and police actions (one of the characters in the film refers to the U.S. as a fascist state), while Ford’s character in Blade Runner spends much of the movie questioning himself and his actions, especially when he realizes his opponents aren’t as evil as society and his superiors have made them out to be.

Ray (2004)/Walk the Line (2005): Two biopics about music legends. Ray depicts the rise of Ray Charles (a brilliant, Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx) while Walk the Line does the same with music duo Johnny and June Carter Cash (Joaquin Phoenix and a brilliant, Oscar-winning Reese Witherspoon). Both movies do a fine job illustrating the trials and tribulations these artists went through (some of which were of their own making) as they fulfilled their dreams of making music, and thus, ensuring their places in history. Interestingly, both Charles and the Cashes passed away shortly before these films premiered, although both movies received their blessing.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)/Clue (1985): Rocky Horror (which, I must confess, I never really liked, but can understand why many do) is a musical-science fiction-comedy with not-so-subtle nods to Frankenstein, while Clue is a mystery-comedy based on the Parker Brothers board game of the same name. However, both films not only take place in mansions on dark and stormy nights, but both also feature memorable roles for Tim Curry. In Rocky Horror, he plays the doctor who was once described by Us magazine as “a bi-sexual Beetlejuice”, while in Clue, he plays a butler who ends up setting an evening of murder into motion after he invites several people over for dinner. In addition, both movies didn’t get much initial notice when they were released, but today have huge followings as well as midnight showings with audience members performing the action as it plays on screen.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)/Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985): As it’s Halloween, it seems appropriate to mention these two animated specials, which may be the most famous of all Halloween cartoons. In the first, Linus waits for the arrival of the Santa Claus-esque Great Pumpkin, while Charlie Brown ends up getting only rocks while trick-or-treating and Snoopy hunts for the Red Baron. In the second, Garfield enlists his dog sidekick Odie to go trick-or-treating with him (both dress up as pirates) in order to get more candy for himself, only for both to get caught up in a genuine ghost story (involving—what else?—pirates, which today reminds me a little of the setting of John Carpenter’s The Fog). The Garfield special actually bests Great Pumpkin in terms of having moments that make you jump, but both specials have a great deal of heart, making them the perfect Halloween treats for all ages.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Agony Booth review: November film predictions

This is another collaboration with some of my Agony Booth colleagues. This one looks at predictions for films coming out this November.
It’s time again for more movie predictions! November is almost upon us, when the studios take advantage of the big Thanksgiving holiday to roll out their more family-oriented blockbusters, while also beginning to trickle out the big contenders for year-end awards. Join us as we predict which of these movies will be HITs and which will BOMB based solely on watching the trailers!

(Read our October movie predictions!)

Our gurus this time around are Rick Lewis, Michael “Mendo” Novelli, Thomas Ricard, Rob Kirchgassner, Thomas Stockel, Joel Schlosberg, and Dr. Winston O’Boogie!

Doctor Strange (Nov 4)

After neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is injured in a car accident that destroys his career, he learns the mystic arts under the tutelage of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). After setting up shop in Greenwich Village, NYC, he uses his supernatural abilities to become an intermediary between the real world and higher dimensions.


November is when Cumberbatch and Swinton usually go trawling for Oscars in quaint little indie films, not saving the world in capes and tights. But far be it from me to doubt Marvel. HIT.

Mendo: A HIT, obviously, though probably more along the lines of Ant-Man than Captain America. To me, at least, Doctor Strange works better as a supporting character rather than a star; I’ve always thought of him as the guy who pals around with Howard the Duck and helps She-Hulk with her legal cases. I doubt this will be as weird or wonderful as that, though.

Thomas R: As is often the case with Marvel, I see a lot of potential in the ideas on display but there’s no escaping a sense of déjà vu; in this case, it looks like they’re combining Inception’s urban dreamscapes with the portals from Thor: The Dark World, complete with obligatory nondescript villain. But it’s got the Marvel brand, so of course it’ll be a HIT.

Rob: Considering that other Marvel Comics characters have made a fortune on the big screen in recent years, there’s little reason to doubt that this will do any differently. Cumberbatch’s superstar status shouldn’t hurt its chances, either. HIT!

Thomas S: The only question here is, will it be a moderate success like Ant-Man, or a major hit like Civil War? To be honest, I’m thinking it’s going to fall somewhere in between, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s (spelled it right the first time, yes!) strong Sherlock Holmes fanbase drawing in bigger numbers. So, yeah, HIT.

Joel: It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Marvel may get too far-out and incomprehensible for general audiences, but it’ll take more than one movie. They could even make a Howard the Duck movie a HIT at this point, and this is not a Howard the Duck movie.

Winston: I’ve been off the Marvel train since I went to see one of those movies (I think it was either Dark World or Age of Ultron) on the basis of gushing reviews, only to find out it was the same mediocre, cookie-cutter entertainment as the rest of them. And despite the allegedly “new and different” supernatural elements in this one, I expect Doctor Strange to be more of the same, and that, sadly, means it’ll be a HIT.

Hacksaw Ridge (Nov 4)

Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in 10 years is the true story of US Army medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who fought on the front lines of WWII but refused to kill or use a weapon due to his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. Historical spoiler alert: Doss saves 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa and becomes the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor.


Rick: Mel Gibson, WWII, true story… 15 years ago, it’d be a Best Picture lock. Now it’s nothing but red flags. BOMB.

Mendo: Will probably do very well among older audiences. My guess is that it’ll hang around for several weeks, never quite turning a profit in theaters, but do well enough on DVD and gain a permanent slot on the weekend TV circuit. BOMB.

Thomas R: Martyrized hero? Simple, folksy characterization? Graphic slow-mo violence designed to valorize suffering? This looks like a Mel Gibson movie, alright. Easy kidding aside, it’ll be interesting to see Gibson defend Christian pacifism and glorify war at the same time. I don’t know if it’ll be as big as American Sniper, but it’s bound to find similar audiences. HIT.

Rob: This movie certainly sounds like it could do well. The question is whether director Mel Gibson’s previous bad karma will affect it, especially since the trailer only refers to Gibson as “the Academy Award winning director of Braveheart.” Possible HIT!

Thomas S: And hey, it’s another trailer telling me exactly how the movie is going to end. Thanks, Hollywood! Another Oscar whoring movie I have no interest in seeing, but it’s probably going to be a HIT anyway.

Joel: Mel Gibson keeping himself off-screen and letting up-and-coming faces star in a Sergeant York for the war-weary that taps into patriotism and religiosity? And did I mention that Mel Gibson keeps himself off-screen? If anything he could possibly make can find an audience, it’s this. HIT.

Winston: It’s been long enough since Gibson’s last blowup that people are ready to give him a chance at redemption, plus the film is sure to draw in the same sizable Christian audience that turned out for The Passion of the Christ. HIT, provided no new tapes leak over the next week or so.

Trolls (Nov 4)

The biggest toy fad of the 1970s/1990s becomes a major DreamWorks animated release. Two trolls named Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) embark on a quest to save their village from being destroyed by Bergens, creatures who eat trolls. Also, the Timberlake-produced soundtrack has already spawned the #1 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”


Rick: You ever order a Coke and the waiter says, “Is Pepsi okay?” Eh, no, not really. DreamWorks Animation movies always feel the exact same way to me. Rise of the Guardians, The Croods, Turbo, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Home… you can’t serve this stuff up to an audience that guzzles down Disney/Pixar and expect them not to notice the difference. Forgotten fads will do nothing to overcome that feeling. BOMB.

Mendo: Under any other circumstances, this would crush its opposition on opening weekend, because animated family movies always take the #1 spot. I predict it will place higher than Hacksaw Ridge, maybe even take the top spot from Strange if it lasts that long, but it’ll probably drop down the charts almost immediately thereafter. Unless it pulls a LEGO Movie and has a really good script. HIT.

Thomas R: Even the trailer can’t bother disguising the lack of plot; it just gives up halfway through in favor of a montage of typical DreamWorks gags and dance parties. Looks like manufactured cuteness at its most annoying, but young kids will probably love it. HIT.

Rob: This animated film is sure to please kids. HIT!

Thomas S: My God, is it time to be nostalgic for the ’90s already? I hate trolls, so I’m calling this one a BOMB.

Joel: “From the creators of Shrek” says it all: this trailer feels like it sat on a shelf since the mid-’00s. DreamWorks has moved on to better things, and so has its audience. BOMB.

Arrival (Nov 11)

Not to be confused with the 1996 Charlie Sheen film, Arrival depicts the sudden appearance of giant alien spacecraft across the globe. A team led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called upon to translate their language, and as humanity rushes toward the brink of global war, Banks discovers there’s much more to the alien language than simple communication.


Rick: Amy Adams’s track record with alien saviors is spotty at best, but I’m digging the visuals here, so my fingers are crossed on this one. But what do I know; I’m one of the few who genuinely enjoyed Contact. HIT.

Mendo: I just don’t see Arrival being a huge hit. The trailer is so boring. Maybe if it wasn’t up against Doctor Strange it could carve out a nice run for itself, but this is a DVD movie all the way. BOMB!

Thomas R: Judging by the critical and commercial success of Interstellar and The Martian, Hollywood is experiencing something of a boom in smart, thoughtful sci-fi. Arrival gives every sign of following in those footsteps, with a hugely promising premise and a trailer that gives away just enough to whet our appetites without spelling too much out. HIT.

Rob: This one seems to be a cross between Contact and Independence Day. Still, Adams, along with co-stars Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner, could make this interesting. HIT!

Thomas S: First of all, congrats to Winston for remembering a time when Charlie Sheen was actually a decent actor and not a walking joke (and yes, I’m sorry he has HIV, but is anyone surprised?). As for Arrival, from the visuals to the cast to the premise, this movie looks awesome and I am soooooo hoping it’s going to be a hit. But the bitter old man in me sees that without a rockstar director like Christopher Nolan being attached to it, Arrival is going to BOMB.

Joel: There’s a lot more of a following for this sort of low-key sci-fi in the 2010s than there was in 1996. And less than a third of a budget of Independence Day: Resurgence is going towards subtler but better-looking effects. HIT.

Winston: Sure, the trailers are intriguing, but the buzz is that the film starts off straightforward but eventually turns into a complex, non-linear final act that will frustrate and confound most viewers. It apparently is less Interstellar and more Under the Skin. I’m so there, but I think word of mouth from those who go in expecting a special effects extravaganza is not going to help this one. BOMB.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Nov 11)

From director Ang Lee comes the story of a young soldier named Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who’s sent on a victory tour after a traumatic and well-publicized battle in Iraq. As he prepares for an appearance in the halftime show at a Thanksgiving day football game, flashbacks reveal the tragic reality of what actually happened during the battle. Also of note: this is the first major release shot in the hyper-real high frame rate of 120fps.


Rick: Ang Lee and football go together about as well as Ang Lee and the Hulk. BOMB.

Mendo: Being an Ang Lee film, the Oscar bait crowd will turn out for this one in full force. My Criswell prediction for this one is that it will debut at #3, just behind Strange and Trolls. HIT or BOMB, could go either way. It will be nice to see Steve Martin on screen again, though!

Thomas R: Is America finally ready for a serious examination of modern-day war heroism and how the military-industrial-media complex affects our perceptions of what that means? Perhaps, but that’s assuming Ang Lee doesn’t sacrifice his ideas on the altar of visual prowess, which Life of Pi occasionally did. It may garner some interest, but somehow I doubt it’ll live up to its ambitions. BOMB.

Rob: This film, based on the book by Ben Fountain, sounds like an intriguing tale. The supporting cast, which includes Kristen Stewart and Steve Martin, shouldn’t hurt either. HIT!

Thomas S: Ah, I feel all kinds of terrible calling this one “Oscar whoring” like I did with Hacksaw Ridge (mainly, I think, because that’s World War II, and there is the detachment of time), but I can’t help but feel cynical about the placement of its release date. It does seem to have a more interesting feel, what with the way a hero is paraded out to a celebration in front of an audience that probably doesn’t understand what he’s done or why, but I’m thinking it’s going to be a BOMB regardless.

Joel: When actors as sometimes-popular as Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin are top-billed in the credits but nowhere to be seen in the trailer, something’s amiss. BOMB.

Winston: I suppose the director of Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, and Lust, Caution deserves the benefit of the doubt, but Lee seems all wrong for this material. The source novel reportedly has a Catch-22-like satirical tone, whereas this trailer looks way too self-serious. And while I’ll probably see it just to experience what 120 frames per second is like, I can’t imagine that being much of a selling point after Peter Jackson’s failed attempt at popularizing high frame rates. BOMB.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov 18)

In this Harry Potter prequel (the first of five, all based on a 128 page book), it’s 1926 and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York after a trip around the world to document (and in some cases, rescue) magical creatures. Alas, a “No-Maj” (the American word for Muggle) inadvertently releases some of the creatures, and it’s up to Newt and friends to recover the beasts and stop dark forces from provoking a war between the Wizards and the No-Maj-es.


Rick: G#DD@%N M#@!$RF#%$!NG PREQUELS. I HATE THEM SO MUCH. But I’ll be there opening night. HIT.

Mendo: Oh, this is going to be such a HIT, it’ll be, like, DISCOUNT HIT WAREHOUSE all up in this piece! Okay, so it’s not quite a Harry Potter movie, but dammit, it’ll have the same spirit! It’ll be interesting to see if it takes the top spot from Strange, but if this debuts any lower than #2, all bets are off for the rest of the year.

Thomas S: Have we outgrown the Potterverse? My inner child just clubbed my bitter old man at the very thought. HIT. Moving on.

Rob: I doubt this’ll do anything the Potter series didn’t already do. BOMB!

Thomas R: I grew up loving the Harry Potter books and films, but this unsolicited prequel looks bloated and unwieldy enough to make the Hobbit trilogy look restrained. Nostalgic Potter fans and their kids will likely make it a HIT, but I wouldn’t count on all four [!] sequels to materialize.

Joel: Five movies is a stretch, but as with The Phantom Menace and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the fanbase will at least show up for the first one. HIT.

The Edge of Seventeen (Nov 18)

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is having an awkward time getting through high school, which is made even worse when she learns her brother has been secretly dating her best friend. But she might be able to survive with the help of her history teacher (Woody Harrelson) and a friendship with a boy who’s just as awkward as she is.


Rick: Partly because modern TV writing is so rich and complex these days, poignant character studies like this just don’t bring people to the multiplex anymore. Still, the bar is going to be low enough for this to be considered a HIT.

Mendo: Believe it or not, this is the one I’m most looking forward to. Oh, it will BOMB in theaters (spectacularly, I should imagine), but the Netflix crowd will eat this one up. Future cult classic in the making!

Thomas R: Are they really still making these? I thought we’d passed the “whiny indie teenage comedy” fad roughly seven years ago. It’s apparently gotten rave reviews, but I don’t expect it to make much more than its original budget. BOMB.

Rob: Coming of age dramas are known to be hit and miss. But this one could be a HIT!

Thomas S: I legit laughed a lot at this trailer. Woody Harrelson looks awesome in this role and Hailee Steinfeld might come across as whiny but also sympathetic. I’m going with HIT here, as I think it’ll resonate with a young audience.

Joel: The target audience may have to ask their grandparents to explain the Beatles and Twins. BOMB.

Winston: The trailer didn’t wow me and I can’t really buy someone who looks like Hailee Steinfeld playing a misfit outcast, but looking at its competition, it doesn’t seem like there’s much else in theaters this month to appeal to the teenage girl demographic. Probably a low key HIT.

Life on the Line (Nov 18)

John Travolta stars as Texas power line worker Beau, who’s raising his orphaned niece (Kate Bosworth) and blaming himself for her father’s electrocution death. When a deadly storm hits, it’s up to Beau and his crew of hardworking family men to work “on the line” and keep the electrical grid running for the sake of their community.


Rick: This whole thing seems as unintentionally corny as its title. BOMB.

Mendo: Total dad movie. BOMB in theaters, followed by a semi-weekly airing on TNT from now until the day you die.

Thomas R: This looks like the kind of simple, working-man stories John Wayne might have done in the ’70s between two westerns. Except instead of the Duke, you get John Travolta with a beard and a Texan accent competing for which is fakest. I’m surprised this didn’t go straight to VOD. BOMB.

Rob: This movie is probably as clichéd as it sounds. Travolta’s recent track record doesn’t inspire much confidence either. BOMB!

Thomas S: Now that Nicolas Cage is making movies like Left Behind, can he and Travolta team back up to give us some more of that Face/Off-like magic? God knows both guys need a hit to reinvigorate their careers. BOMB.

Joel: If this were John Travolta’s latest periodic return to form, it wouldn’t have taken a year to reach theaters. BOMB.

Winston: Obviously, this thing is going to BOMB, I mean, who’s even heard of it before now? The truth is, I threw it on this list because it looks hilarious. A movie about heroic power line workers? Deepwater Horizon, this is not. A large number of Travolta’s films have been going direct-to-video in recent years (did you know he made a movie with De Niro?), so how this one escaped the same fate is anyone’s guess.

Moana (Nov 23)

In Disney’s latest animated outing, a Polynesian teenager (Auli’i Cravalho) goes on a quest to save her people and meets the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Together they travel across the ocean encountering treacherous monsters and other dangers on their way to a mythical island. Also, it’s a musical, featuring songs from Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.


Rick: Not coming anywhere close to Frozen doesn’t mean it’s not still a HIT.

Mendo: A HIT without question, but what strikes me as interesting is that people are making a huge deal out of this being a Disney movie without a love story in it (so, like Brave, basically?). Dunno why people dislike love stories so much, but like Brave, I’m in no hurry to see this one. I do love me some Dwayne Johnson, though.

Thomas S: Hey, remember that time when the Rock was making shit movies like Tooth Fairy and we thought he’d go the way of Hulk Hogan? Whodathunk years later everything he touched would seem to turn to gold. Oh, and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho sounds like she’ll hold her own. HIT.

Rob: This Disney film sounds like Kung Fu Panda set in Hawaii. BOMB!

Thomas R: I was on board until Dwayne Johnson hogged all the attention with his self-conscious jokes. Hopefully, this is another case of misleading marketing à la Frozen and this version of Maui won’t be too obnoxious. Regardless, it’s great to see Disney pay attention to Polynesian culture and it’ll likely do fine, though the Clements/Musker duo’s track record is a little spotty. HIT.

Joel: Given the roll they’re on with original animated features, any new one from Disney will be a HIT.

Allied (Nov 23)

In 1942 Casablanca, intelligence officer Max (Brad Pitt) meets French resistance fighter Marianne (Marion Cotillard). The two fall in love, but soon the government comes to believe that Marianne is really a Nazi spy, and Max may be called upon to kill her.


Rick: I’ve lost faith in director Robert Zemeckis, and writer Steven Knight’s last two movies (Burnt, Seventh Son) are notorious bombs. This one screams melodrama. BOMB.

Mendo: I want the WWII genre to die just as much as anyone else, but this trailer is ten kinds of sexy! A HIT with lovers of trashy romance.

Thomas S: Brad Pitt is kind of hit or miss for me, but he looks like he might be solid in this. And Marion Cotillard is a great actress. So I’m calling this one a HIT, but maybe that’s more of a hope than a prediction.

Rob: This is one of those stories that was basically old before it was new. The fact that this story is set in 1942 Casablanca only adds to the déjà vu. BOMB!

Thomas R: On paper, it sounds like the kind of story Hitchcock could have told in his sleep. Sadly, it looks like the entire cast and crew have gone and done exactly that. The Brangelina divorce might spark additional interest in the film, given the timing and circumstances, but it probably won’t be enough to save it from being a BOMB.

Joel: With Casablanca, Inglourious Basterds, and A Night in Casablanca readily available on video, why bother? BOMB.

Bad Santa 2 (Nov 23)

Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is back to his alcoholic, con-man ways as he teams up again with sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox) to rip off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. They’re helped out by Willie’s equally foul-mouthed mother Sunny (Kathy Bates), but things get complicated when Willie finds himself falling for the charity director (Christina Hendricks).


Rick: It’s been way too long since the original, and way too many other “shockingly” raunchy comedies have come out in the meantime. BOMB.

Mendo: I like Bad Santa. I like the “Bad” sub-genre in general. I don’t even consider it to be that much of a red flag when a comedy gets a sequel, or if a sequel comes more than a decade after the original. (Admit it, you liked Blues Brothers 2000 the first time you saw it! It’s okay, Mendo won’t judge.) But they had to bring the kid back! Bringing everyone else back has the risk to become sad already, but now the gang truly is all here. Well, if the Zoolander series is any indicator, the first one being a bomb in theaters means this one will probably BOMB too.

Thomas S: I confess I never saw Bad Santa 1, but I’m guessing this is probably going to BOMB because it’s been too many years since the first one, and this just has the stink of desperation around it.

Rob: Sequels to comedy classics are almost never good (usually because they just aren’t as funny), so this one is on rather thin ice. BOMB!

Joel: Looks like it’s the same one joke as the first Bad Santa, but hey, that joke worked for an entire movie that time. Coming after an additional decade of terrible Christmas movies taking themselves too seriously, and PG-13 neutering all year round should make this a HIT.

Rules Don’t Apply (Nov 23)

Warren Beatty directs for the first time since 1998’s Bulworth. A project that began decades ago as a biopic of billionaire filmmaker and aviator Howard Hughes has since morphed into the tale of a 1950s actress (Lily Collins) who falls in love with her driver (Alden Ehrenreich), but finds their relationship hindered by Hughes (Beatty) and his strict rules against romantic relationships between his employees.


Rick: Beatty is too in love with himself to let anyone else shine, even if he’s moved the focus off Hughes himself. BOMB.

Mendo: I like Alden Ehrenreich. He was my favorite character in Hail, Caesar! (Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Hail, Caesar!, drop whatever you’re doing and watch it now.) There are a bunch of my favorite actors in this movie, to be honest, and I love that so many people want to make movies about the forgotten stories of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but was anybody asking for this story to be told? BOMB, though I’ll probably see it.

Thomas R: This is one of the worst-edited trailers I’ve ever seen for a film with so many big names attached to it. I like Warren Beatty and I love a good comeback as much as the next guy, but this doesn’t seem to be it: Sappy music, dimestore-novel romance, flat cinematography, poorly-stitched voiceover lines… This has all the makings of a BOMB.

Rob: Considering Beatty has top billing, the film doesn’t seem to know whether it’s about him or the two lovebirds. BOMB!

Thomas S: Warren Beatty’s still alive? Huh. BOMB.

Joel: He’s not playing Dick Tracy again, anything Howard Hughes-related is cinematic, and is no longer around to make fun of him. Beatty should have a hard time messing this one up. HIT.

Winston: As with Ang Lee, I suppose the director of Reds and Heaven Can Wait deserves the benefit of the doubt, but I think this is a movie that’s been kicking around for way too long. Case in point: Beatty is now a decade older than the real Howard Hughes when he died. If there were something truly great and worthwhile here, Beatty would have already made this movie a long time ago. BOMB.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Night of the Living Bread (1990)

"Well, things are pretty chaotic right now. But we are doing everything we can to maintain a sense of normalcy. In fact, we're about to give communion."
"Communion? Doesn't that involve the use of the holy wafer? A form of bread?"
-Fr. Bryne and Jeff Drexel.

Like Hardware Wars, this is a delightful short film about a movie that unexpectedly became a major part of pop culture. It was made by filmmaker Kevin O'Brien at Ohio University.
In this 8-minute parody of Night of the Living Dead (1968), people are inexplicably attacked by slices of bread. Like its namesake, this movie begins with Barbra (Katie Harris) and her brother Johnny (Steve Herminghausen) are attacked upon arriving at a cemetery.
Johnny is smothered by the bread before Barbra takes refuge in a house along with Ben (Vince Ware). They attempt to escape along with fellow refugees Tom (Robert J. Saunders) and Judy (Gina Saunders). This includes warding the bread off with toasters and bolting the windows with sandwich bags. They also watch TV to keep up to date on the situation, only to have the power go out after learning of communion wafers attacking people at a church which is being used as an emergency shelter.
Alas, bread in a lunch bag inside the house kills Tom and the ladies, leaving Ben the only survivor until the morning when he's covered with bread as he opens the front door.
I think it's safe to say that this spoof got George Romero's seal of approval as it can be found on some DVD editions of his classic zombie flick.
Fittingly, O'Brien acknowledges Romero and others involved with that film in the end credits.